Half of U.S. Viewers Watching More TV, Movies Since COVID-19 Started

By May 7, 2020Our Ideas

Half of U.S. Viewers Watching More TV, Movies Since COVID-19 Started; Even Parents with Lost Income Paying for More Streaming Services

COVID-19 has spread rapidly across the globe, reaching nearly every nation and costing tens of thousands of lives so far. While protecting public health is the clear priority in this pandemic, there has already been an unprecedented impact on the global economy with massive job losses and plunging stock market indexes.

 Altman Vilandrie & Company clients have asked us over the last several weeks for our views on the near- and long-term impacts of this crisis. This article represents the next installment in a series of articles that dive deeper into different aspects of the crisis and how they will impact our lives, our work, and the Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) industries on which we rely.

 Recent entries include an overview of TMT trends, a look at what sports fans are doing to fill the void left by the professional sports blackout, an in-depth consumer survey on employee remote work trends affecting telecom and tech providers, an analysis of current and future work from home trends, and survey results of sports fans viewing habits in Latin America.

 May 7, 2020

With more than 300 million Americans living in states with some form of stay-at-home or social distancing orders – some of whom can only leave their homes for exercise or supplies – watching movies and TV programming at home was always going to be a big part of the COVID-19 entertainment menu.

But how much has the pandemic changed our viewing habits, and what is driving consumers’ decision-making? To find out, Altman Vilandrie & Company conducted a poll of U.S. consumers to learn more about how streaming and pay TV are faring during this unprecedented period.

Half of viewers watching more TV and movies

The survey shows that 49% of consumers have increased video consumption during the pandemic, including 22% of consumers who now watch five more hours of TV or movies per week. Approximately 60% of respondents say they are using a streaming video service, driven by increased usage by younger consumers during COVID-19.“One of the few bright sides for consumers in the lockdown is the buffet of video content that they can access instantly from home,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Jonathan Hurd. “This accessible and relatively cheap content is being gobbled up by younger viewers and families who are desperate for homebound entertainment.”

Consumers with children are experiencing a boost in household viewing rates, and younger viewers (35 and under) are watching more video than older ones.Live news gets big boost

Live news and sports have been among the most popular TV programs – on pay TV and streaming services – for several years. In fact, live news and sports have dominated the “must-have” rankings in Altman Vilandrie & Company’s 2019 Video Survey.

As the pandemic has spread, live news has drawn even more of the American viewers’ interest: 43% of respondents are now watching live news more than they did before the onset of COVID-19. This news spike has occurred across every age demographic, but the youngest viewers in the survey (18-24-year-olds) are seeing the biggest increases in news watching.“We’ve seen consistently in our past research that live news is must-have programming for pay-tv viewers,” said Principal Matt Rivet. “But amid a pandemic, viewers are seeking up to date information about developments in the country and their local areas – and that interest is reaching younger viewers who have historically been less interested in news programs.”

Is video essential? “Yes!” say parents.

The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has wreaked economic havoc, with more than 30 million workers filing unemployment claims in April. The survey results reflect the financial uncertainty facing American consumers, with nearly half (47%) of respondents reporting that they have experienced a loss of income or expect to in the future. For younger consumers, the impact was more pronounced: about 60% of young adults say they have seen or expect to see their incomes take a hit due to the pandemic.While this seems like bad news for a non-essential item like video, the Altman Vilandrie & Company research points to strong consumer loyalty for video. Overall, consumers are aggressively cutting costs in various ways, but only 11% say they can’t afford video.Surprisingly, parents of young children with income loss or risk are spending more on video services. In fact, they are adding paid streaming services at a higher rate (18%) and reducing services at a lower rate (16%) versus parent without children and/or income loss or risk. Furthermore, this segment is adding video services at a higher rate than parents without economic loss or risk.“While streaming video isn’t considered a staple like food or electricity, it certainly has value for many in today’s circumstances,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Principal Patrick Redmond. “The fact that it provides relatively low-cost entertainment for homebound families means that it can help them weather the lockdown even as incomes are threatened.”

Redmond noted that video providers could consider creating packages of family-oriented programs to attract new customers and provide new revenue from existing subscribers.

The survey, which polled 1000 consumers on April 3-6, was directed by Matt Rivet, Matt Del Percio, Patrick Redmond, and Jonathan Hurd.

Matt Rivet, Principal - Altman Vilandrie & Co.

Matt Rivet


Matt Del Percio


Patrick Redmond, Principal - Altman Vilandrie & Co.

Patrick Redmond


Jonathan Hurd, Director - Altman Vilandrie & Co.

Jonathan Hurd